Submitted: October 18, 2018
from United States District Court for the District of
Minnesota - Minneapolis
SMITH, Chief Judge, LOKEN and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.
Roberts appeals the district court's grant of summary
judgment dismissing his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims that
officers at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud,
Minnesota ("MCF"), were deliberately indifferent to
his serious medical needs after he suffered a stroke.
Reviewing summary judgment de novo and the facts in
the light most favorable to Roberts, we affirm. A.H. v.
St. Louis Cty., Mo., 891 F.3d 721, 727 (8th Cir. 2018)
(standard of review).
an inmate at MCF, Roberts fell ill the night of Friday,
September 25, 2015, vomiting in his cell and experiencing
dizziness, headaches, and numbness. The symptoms continued or
worsened through Sunday, September 27. Roberts did not leave
his cell and was unable to eat anything those two days. He
reported severe illness to unidentified corrections officers
on multiple occasions but received no assistance or medical
treatment. The three named defendants were not at work during
the weekend of September 26 and 27.
Monday, September 28, Roberts's vomiting subsided, and he
was able to stand and leave his cell. He asked another inmate
to tell corrections officers he was too ill to report for
work. He did not ask to be signed up for sick call, nor did
he request medical attention by submitting a "kite"
to a corrections officer. Roberts's name appeared on the
sick call list requesting non-emergency dental treatment. He
testified that he spoke separately to the three named
defendants that day, telling each he needed medical
attention; two told him MCF Health Services had been
notified. Roberts did not receive medical attention on
September 28. The defendants do not recall communicating with
Roberts that day.
Tuesday morning, September 29, Roberts traveled to Washington
County for a scheduled court appearance. Upon arrival, he
told a Washington County examining nurse the "same
thing" he had been telling the corrections officers --
that he was experiencing vertigo, was dizzy, had been
throwing up, and was extremely hot and sweating. The
nurse's report states that Roberts denied vomiting,
nausea, headaches, sweating, blurry vision, light
sensitivity, and fainting episodes. The nurse instructed
Roberts to drink water and keep an eye on himself.
returned to MCF on Thursday, October 1, where he described
his medical condition and symptoms to an intake nurse who
brought him to see the on-duty physician. Roberts described
his symptoms to the physician, who "kept talking"
to Roberts "about the flu." Roberts testified the
physician's report accurately described his symptoms back
to the night of September 25. The physician attributed his
vertigo to an abscessed tooth, and Roberts consented to
having the tooth surgically removed, which went well.
However, at approximately 5:00 p.m. that afternoon, Roberts
told defendant Craig Gondeck that he needed to see medical
services because he was experiencing numbness in his face.
Gondeck immediately requested emergency assistance. Medical
staff arrived promptly, examined Roberts, and called an
ambulance. He was transported to a nearby hospital and
diagnosed with having suffered a stroke.
filed this action in March 2016, alleging that
defendants' deliberate indifference to his serious
medical needs violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment
rights. After his claims against other defendants were
resolved, the three named corrections officer defendants
moved for summary judgment. Roberts does not contend that
these corrections officers, or any medical professional, were
deliberately indifferent in diagnosing and treating his
October 1, 2015 stroke. Rather, supported by an expert
witness who opined that Roberts suffered an earlier stroke
the night of September 25, Roberts alleges that these
defendants were deliberately indifferent to his need for
medical treatment following the earlier stroke.
district court concluded that these corrections officers
could not be liable for what happened over the weekend of
September 26 and 27 because they were not on duty. The court
further concluded that Roberts failed to establish that these
defendants were deliberately indifferent to his need for
medical attention on Monday, September 28, because
"Roberts cannot expect a layperson such as a corrections
officer to recognize symptoms when a medical professional to
whom those same symptoms are recounted does not," and
because Roberts's expert did not establish that medical
treatment on September 28, more than two days after the
alleged initial stroke, would have prevented or reduced the
risk of the second stroke.
prevail on an Eighth Amendment claim of deliberate
indifference to serious medical needs, Roberts "must
prove that he suffered from one or more objectively serious
medical needs, and that prison officials actually knew of but
deliberately disregarded those needs." Roberson v.
Bradshaw, 198 F.3d 645, 647 (8th Cir. 1999). Roberts
must show the corrections officer defendants actually knew
that he faced a substantial risk of serious harm and did not
respond reasonably to that risk. A.H., 891 F.3d at
726. Proof of deliberate indifference requires a showing of a
mental state "akin to criminal recklessness."
Id (quotation omitted).
objectively serious medical need is one that is "either
obvious to the layperson or supported by medical evidence,
like a physician's diagnosis." Roberson,
198 F.3d at 648 (quotation omitted). Here, Roberts argues
that "on Monday, September 28, he was still suffering
from symptoms that a jury could reasonably find should have
been obvious to [the three corrections officers] as
evidencing a serious medical condition that needed medical
attention." At his deposition, Roberts could not recall
his conversations with the three defendants that day. He
testified that he told many corrections officers, "I was
sick . . . . I needed attention . . . . I was having a heart
attack." The response by officers who passed by or
stopped at his cell "is always we've already
contacted medical, and they've given us their answer,
which was drink water." While Roberts contends he
requested medical attention from the named defendants, he did
not sign up for sick call nor pass a "kite" to a
corrections officer seeking medical attention. The defendants
do not remember any interaction with Roberts on Monday. It is
undisputed that his vomiting had subsided by Monday and he
was able to stand and walk outside his cell.
also undisputed that Roberts was seen by trained health care
professionals on Tuesday, September 29 -- the intake nurse in
Washington County -- and on Thursday, October 1 -- the
on-duty physician at MCF in St. Cloud. Roberts described to
these medical professionals the same symptoms that began the
night of Friday, September 25, he had previously described to
numerous corrections officers. It is well-established that,
"[i]f trained health care officials could not find a
serious medical need in these circumstances, then we decline
to hold that a reasonable lay person should have done
so." Aswegan v. ...